Who to watch – and where to watch them – in a year that promises more golf action than ever before.
It was controversial, yes. But has there ever been a more interesting time to be involved in, or a fan of,
golf than 2022?
An enormous and bitter divide emerged between the PGA Tour and LIV Golf. Australians enjoyed wall-to-wall success across the globe, from the amateur level right to the top of the game. We had Harrison Crowe win the Asia-Pacific Amateur in Thailand and Connor McKinney take out the prestigious St Andrews Links Trophy in Scotland.
The headliners were Minjee Lee and Cameron Smith, who had one of the most successful years in the history of Australian golf. Smith set a PGA Tour scoring record when he won the Tournament of Champions at 34-under par. Two months later, he won the Players Championship, considered by many as the fifth Major in men’s golf. Then he did win a maiden Major, and not just any Major, one that Ian Baker-Finch described as the “greatest Major that’s ever been played” – the 150th Open Championship at St Andrews. But Smith wasn’t done there, after rising to world No.2, he controversially left the PGA Tour for LIV Golf and won its Chicago stop before travelling down to Australia and winning a third PGA title here. Lee almost matched Smith’s success in the men’s game, winning the US Women’s Open at Pine Needles and another LPGA event.
All the while, LIV Golf, spearheaded by Greg Norman, got itself off the ground and disrupted pro golf’s entire ecosystem. Not only did LIV sign stars like Dustin Johnson and Bryson DeChambeau, but Australians like Smith, Marc Leishman, Matt Jones and Wade Ormsby, while Jed Morgan also played a season. LIV then announced in November that it would bring an event in 2023 to Australia, to Adelaide’s Grange Golf Club. Smith, Johnson and other stars like Brooks Koepka will land on our shores looking to impress Australian crowds with LIV’s loud brand of 54-hole events that feature no cut and 48-player fields.
Whether 2023 will live up to the drama and success created in 2022, only time will tell. But here are the Australians to watch on various tours across the globe next year.
The low-down: the Dream Team, back again. Well, at least part-time. Scott has brought his old mate Steve Williams, the caddie who helped Scott win the 2013 Masters, back to job-share with current looper Greg Hearmon. Scott is more cognisant than ever that the clock is ticking on his dream of winning multiple Majors and for that reason he’s leaving no stone unturned in order to turn back time to his world-beating 2013 and 2014 form, when he reached world No.1. Scott is coming off a passable season in which he finished T-15 at the Open Championship at St Andrews and in which he made the season-ending Tour Championship, which is exclusive to the 30 best performers on the PGA Tour. He’s going to live in Florida from March to June to give the PGA Tour and the Majors a proper crack. Look for Scott to have a big year.
The prediction: Scott will win just once in 2023, but it’ll be special. He’ll hoist the Open Championship’s claret jug, finally, at Royal Liverpool. Scott tied for fifth there behind Rory McIlroy in 2014 on the horrible weather side of the draw. His caddie knows a thing or two about the Hoylake course; during his 12-year stint on Tiger Woods’ bag, Williams devised a successful plan that Woods employed during his 2006 Open victory at Hoylake.
The low-down: Sydney-born, Seattle-based Davis is going to have a strong year on the PGA Tour off the back of his impressive Presidents Cup debut for Trevor Immelman’s International side at Quail Hollow in September. Davis won two points for the Internationals, including a valiant point in the Saturday afternoon four-balls playing alongside his idol and partner that day, Scott. Davis already has a PGA Tour win under his belt, the 2021 Rocket Mortgage Classic. The lanky, strong Davis’ towering ball flight has always held him in good stead on the PGA Tour, but being tested under Presidents Cup pressure has sharpened his mind.
The prediction: Davis is going to win a second PGA Tour event and crack the world’s top 30 courtesy of that win and sheer consistency. A barrage of top-15s and top-10s are going to bring his world ranking in from No.70.
The low-down: the former world No.1 is still on the search for the magic that saw the boy from Beaudesert in Queensland conquer the golf world with a win at the 2015 PGA Championship and 12 other PGA Tour victories. Under Chris Como, a modern swing guru who once worked with Woods, Day has set about rebuilding his swing to alleviate lower-back problems. Day, who grew up slinging a draw, now works a fade and says his body is under less pain. He’s not quite there yet in his swing and game rebuild, but the 35-year-old has an insatiable work ethic.
The prediction: Day is unlikely to get PGA Tour win No.13 in 2023, because the reconstruction of his game is still a work in progress. But he’ll come mighty close… he is going to put together a decent string of top-10s and give hope that one, if not more, PGA Tour wins will come in 2024. And that’s the thing; when Day is on he wins in bunches. He’s been at it so long we forget Day will be only 36 in 2024, which for a lot of golfers can still be right in the middle of their prime.
The low-down: The Bendigo boy made one of the smoother transitions we’ve seen by an Aussie from the European Tour to the PGA Tour. He won twice on the DP World circuit before locking up his card through the Korn Ferry Tour finals in the US, and then winning within a couple months on the PGA Tour. Herbert also had some gains in the Majors last year, with top-15 results at the PGA Championship and Open Championship at St Andrews.
The prediction: Herbert will win another PGA Tour event this year, but not until later in the year after he improves his ball-striking statistics, which were 159th in strokes gained/off the tee and 192nd in the approach category. He’s close to doing so after fine-tuning his equipment specs last year. Once he does that, with his prodigious power, world-class short game and PGA Tour-leading putting (No.1 strokes gained: putting last season) the sky is the limit for Herbert.
The low-down: The northern suburbs of Sydney produced a tough but inspiring story in Harrison Endycott. His mother tragically passed away when Endycott was a teenager but he’s pulled through to make his way onto the PGA Tour via a winning season on the Korn Ferry Tour. So far in his rookie season, Endycott has had a tie for 12th in his first event as a PGA Tour member as well as a maiden top-10 result at the Bermuda Championship.
The prediction: Endycott will spend the year becoming more familiar with the ins and outs of the PGA Tour, particularly the unrelenting competition week in, week out, as well as learning the various PGA Tour regular venues and how to manage his time. He’ll compile several top-10 results, get in contention a handful of times and learn valuable lessons to put in play for 2024 – when he’ll earn a career first PGA Tour.
The low-down: Smith couldn’t have lived up to his billing any better in his first five events as a LIV Golfer. The reigning Open champion and world No.3 gave LIV a shot of legitimacy and excitement that it was lacking by almost getting into a sudden-death playoff in his debut event in Boston. He then won his next LIV start in Chicago and lifted the all-Australian Punch GC team to second place at the LIV teams finale
The prediction: Smith will fine-tune his all-Australian team in the offseason with a potential name change and maybe even a shuffle in the team members. Smith himself will take his success to the next level, both in LIV Golf and in the Majors where he’ll play the four without the stress of trying to break through for the first victory. He’ll win three LIV events, including the Australian debut event in Adelaide. In the Majors, Smith wins the Masters, a year after the third placing he posted while playing in the final group, and contends in The Open at Royal Liverpool, where he’ll be the defending champion.
The low-down: Leishman, a six-time PGA Tour winner, joined Smith in debuting in LIV Golf at its Boston event in September and played solid golf over the first two days of the finale in Miami, which help get the all-Australian Punch GC into the final day.
The prediction: Leishman will form an integral part of the all-Australian team this year, a close friend of Smith and a world-class player who’s showing signs of rediscovering form. Look for Leishman to enter qualifying for the US Open and Open Championship, given he’s slipped down to world No.75 (at the time of writing) and well outside the top 50 who get invited to the Masters and who qualify for The Open, as well as the top 60 who make the US Open. It is unclear what the PGA of America will do for its criteria to qualify for the PGA Championship.
The low-down: After navigating the transition from the PGA Tour to LIV Golf, the two-time PGA Tour winner and two-time Australian Open champion compiled some solid LIV results: T-25, T-16, T-19, T-26, T-16, T-15, 45th, 2nd.
The prediction: Jones will win a LIV Golf individual event in the US.
The low-down: Adelaide born-and-raised Ormsby was a grinder on the Asian Tour, where he won three times, and the European Tour, where he won once. In a way, Ormsby was rewarded for his success and profile in Asia via the circuit’s partnership with LIV, which invested $US300 million into the Asian Tour and created an avenue for Ormsby to come to LIV
The prediction: Buoyed by the fact it’s in his hometown, the 42-year-old will go close to winning at The Grange in late April. He won’t be able to keep up with Smith, who I think will win the event, but he’ll jag a third.
Korn Ferry Tour
The low-down: Orlando-based Perth tour pro Curtis Luck secured eight starts in the early portion of the Korn Ferry Tour season, having finished tied for 12th at the final stage of Qualifying School in Georgia. Luck, who won the Nationwide Children’s Hospital Championship two years ago, lost his Korn Ferry status at the end of the 2022 season.
The prediction: The former US Amateur and Asia-Pacific Amateur champion, is too talented to not be on the PGA Tour, where he played in 2018. Luck will win a Korn Ferry event and earn another promotion to the PGA Tour for 2024.
Also look out for: Rhein Gibson, Ryan Ruffels, Aaron Baddeley and Cam Percy to have solid seasons on the Korn Ferry Tour.
DP World Tour
The low-down: The Perth golfer bases himself in Orlando and tried giving the Korn Ferry Tour and PGA Tour a crack last year while juggling DP World Tour commitments. Scrivener said he’ll focus on the DP World Tour this year given that the top 10 players at the end of this season will graduate to the PGA Tour through its strategic alliance with the DP World Tour.
The prediction: Scrivener will win a DP World Tour event and secure one of the 10 PGA Tour cards. He came close to winning a DP World event in the first event of the 2022-2023 season – the Australian PGA Championship, which is co-sanctioned with Europe. Scrivener went toe-to-toe with world No.3 Smith and even held a brief share of the lead during the closing nine before Smith got the better of him.
Min Woo Lee
The low-down: The younger brother of dual Major champion, LPGA star Minjee Lee, is a two-time winner on the DP World Tour and, like Scrivener, tried to transition from Europe to the US this year through the Korn Ferry Tour Finals but was unsuccessful.
The prediction: Lee is poised to win again on the DP World Tour this year – for a second time at the Scottish Open – and he will join Scrivener in securing one of the 10 PGA Tour cards on offer in Europe.
The low-down: Morgan secured his DP World Tour status via his 11-shot win at the Australian PGA Championship in early 2022. However, he had to wait 10 months to use it, and in that time played LIV Golf as well as two Major championships, the US Open and Open Championship, but he missed the cut
The prediction: It is unclear whether Morgan will play LIV Golf again this season, but the young Queenslander will hit his stride on the DP World Tour and put together a solid season.
The low-down: We’re including a Kiwi in this because Fox is basically an honorary Australian given the amount of amateur and pro golf he’s played on this side of the Tasman. He’s also one of the nicest guys in golf. Fox had a breakout year with two DP World Tour victories, including the Alfred Dunhill Links in Scotland and a series of runner-up results.
The prediction: Fox will to contend in a big way at The Open at Royal Liverpool, as well as winning another DP World event.
The low-down: Lee’s star was already rapidly rising but she enjoyed a breakout year in 2022. The world No.4 won a second career Major at the US Women’s Open as well as another LPGA victory and a third at the KPMG Women’s PGA Championship. Lee became just the third Australian woman to win multiple Majors after Jan Stephenson and Karrie Webb.
The prediction: Lee will win another Major championship, cementing her status as one of Australia’s greatest golfers.
The low-down: Because of the enormity of Lee’s success, fellow West Australian Green’s season didn’t warrant the attention it deserved. But the 2019 Women’s PGA Championship winner bagged a runner-up and eight top-10s on the LPGA Tour. Impressive stuff.
The prediction: Green will win another Major championship to join Lee, Webb and Stephenson in the multiple Major-winners’ club in Australian women’s golf.
Also look out for: Sydney duo Steph Kyriacou and Grace Kim.
Japan Golf Tour
The low-down: Quayle draws comparisons to Adam Scott given that he is also a big, strapping Queenslander with an elegant golf swing. Quayle has won the Queensland PGA and the Queensland Open in the past two years before enjoying a decent season last year on the Japan Tour, where he progressed to its Tour Championship. He also finished an impressive tied 15th in his Major debut at The Open at St Andrews.
The prediction: Quayle will take the next step by winning a Japan Tour event and will play in a couple more Major championships.
Mainstream media coverage of golf can be divided into two streams: Tiger Woods in his prime (1996 to 2019), and everything else. In the ‘everything else’ category, it’s hard to imagine golf has ever received more mainstream publicity than the divide between the PGA Tour and LIV Golf in 2022. The bulk of drama in 2023 will come from news about whether the four organisers of the men’s Major championships alter their eligibility in terms of LIV golfers. The Open Championship’s organiser, the Royal & Ancient Golf Club, has already indicated it “won’t ban anyone”. The headlines will come from the bodies’ stances, as well as any new big-name exits from the PGA Tour or DP World Tour to LIV Golf. There are also several court cases in play, one of which may decide in February whether DP World Tour members who have played LIV Golf events will be legally allowed to continue playing the DP World Tour. Then there’s the Ryder Cup. It looks like 2023 will give 2022 a decent run for its money.